How Schools Can Support HIV Testing Among Adolescents

Getting tested for HIV is an important step toward prevention; however, testing rates among high school students are low. Schools are important partners in supporting HIV testing among adolescents. Because schools reach millions of students in grades 9–12 every day, they are in a unique position to help educate students about HIV and link them to confidential health services that include HIV testing, counseling, and treatment.

Why should adolescents get tested for HIV?

Many adolescents engage in behaviors that put them at risk for getting HIV. Compared to other age groups, adolescents are among those least likely to know whether they have HIV. CDC recommends HIV testing for adolescents. It is important for adolescents to know their HIV status so they can take precautions to protect their health or take medicine to treat HIV if they have the virus. Taking HIV medicine every day can make the viral load (the amount of HIV in the blood) undetectable. Adolescents who get and keep an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV, and they also experience better health.

Many youth in the U.S. are living with HIV…

1 in 5
of all new HIV diagnoses are in young people aged 13–24
87%
of new HIV diagnoses are among young men, most of whom are gay or bisexual

But often do not know their status…

Around 44%
of young people with HIV do not know they have the virus
9%
of heterosexual high school students have ever been tested for HIV
of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students have ever been tested for HIV

Many students engage in behaviors that put them at risk…

of sexually active high school students used alcohol or drugs before they last had sex
of sexually active high school students did not use a condom the last time they had sex

How can schools encourage students to get tested for HIV?

sol iconAccess and use health risk behavior data.
sol iconTeach students about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Educate students about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, to support their likelihood of being tested.
  • Enhance HIV prevention curricula by including information on locations and procedures for obtaining free or low-cost confidential testing and other health services.
sol iconConnect students with health services that include HIV testing, counseling, and treatment.
  • Increase awareness of student sexual health needs by providing medically accurate information to district and school staff, community partners, parents, and families.
  • Raise student awareness of the need for and availability of health services.
  • Establish a referral system that helps link students to youth-friendly healthcare providers.
sol iconEncourage students and their families to talk about HIV.
  • Provide families with information and skills they need to support healthy attitudes, behaviors, and environments.
  • Help families identify unique opportunities to have conversations with their students.